By Kyle Naber, UWEC Sports Information
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (Blugolds.com)- George Diekelman (Sr. – Stevens Point, WI/SPASH) scored 27 points to lead the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to a 77-68 win over I-94 rival UW-Stout Wednesday night at Zorn Arena.
The Blugolds had Zorn Arena buzzing all-night long in a double-header match of the War on I-94. The women's team came back from a half-time deficit to earn a big win and the men followed suit to complete the sweep.
Eau Claire and Stout had a high-intensity, physical battle going from the tip-off. Trailing 6-2 early, the Blugolds looked to Chris Duff (Sr. – Walker, MN) to get them back into the game. Duff would hit a 3-pointer to match one from the Blue Devils. Then Duff would continue with a tough step-back jumper. The senior would continue to stay active on the next possession finding an open Clay Kujawa (Fr. – Greendale, WI) for the basket and the lead.
Stout would regain their lead on the strength of five unanswered points from Sam Ortmann. Ben Widdes (Jr. – Rice Lake, WI) ] answered the call and hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 14.
Then it was Diekelman who took over for five unanswered points of his own, pushing the Blugold lead to 19-14. However, the Blue Devils were raining threes in the first half, hitting 7 of 16 attempts.
Under a minute to go in the first half, the Blugolds trailed 36-30. Cam Kuepers (Fr. – Madison, WI/Lakeside Lutheran) hit a 3-pointer and was fouled, where he converted the four-point play. With seconds remaining in the half, Diekelman forced a turnover and was fouled hard as he tried to start the fast break. Diekelman would convert on both of his bonus free throws to tie the game at 36, heading into the break.
In the second half, the Blugolds continued to be locked in a tight battle. Stout would stay aggressive and with less than ten minutes to play, would take a 55-50 lead. Led by Kujawa and Diekelman, the Blugolds would go on 16-5 run over the next five minutes to establish a 66-60 lead.
Widdes would seal the game after hitting a layup and drawing a foul, where he would complete the three-point play making it a 71-62 game. The free-throw contest would begin from there, where the Blugolds continued to shoot well from the line, earning their second conference win of the year.
Diekelman was strong in the win, scoring a season-high 27 points on the strength of 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, which was something that had head coach Matt Siverling excited.
"George is a competitor, when he wants a basket; he goes hard to get it," Siverling said. "He had a strong night and he hit some 3-pointers, which is something that has kind of been eluding him this season."
UW-Eau Claire also got a strong effort from Kujawa, who finished with 15 points on an excellent 7 of 8 shooting. The solid execution of Siverling's game plan led to a great night for the Greendale product.
"I thought Clay did exceptionally well tonight," Siverling said. "Our guys stuck to the game plan tonight, and he did a great job finishing."
The Blugolds won the game thanks to their strong bench play, led by Kujawa. Eau Claire outscored the Blue Devils 28-6 in bench points.
"That's something we haven't had a lot of this season," Siverling said. "We need some of those guys coming into the game, and making plays. I'm really proud of the way our whole team played tonight."
Eau Claire celebrated Blu's Birthday well earning two wins. The Blugolds (10-10, 2-7 WIAC) stay alive in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) as they fight for a spot in the conference tournament.
Up next for the men's team is a tough road trip against No. 18 University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. The Blugolds will look to repeat their 60-57 upset win. Follow all the action at Blugold Game Day.